Fitness programs fight couch potato epidemic
By RHONDA MIX
Published:, 08/06/2012 | 816 words
Published:, 08/06/2012 | 816 words
As they punched the air with sharp, precise movements, the group of children at Harvard’s Brown Bear Day Care emulated father and son Taekwondo instructors Mike and Gregory Malinowski’s motions with intensity and focus.
The children were participating in a 10-week martial arts program, led by Harvard Martial Arts. The program is one of two new fitness programs day care center event coordinator Stella Clark has lined up in hopes of keeping things new and exciting for the children. Director Sheila Henson came up with the idea for the classes after EW Training, located in Woodstock, trained staff during the day care’s nap-time sessions.
“We wanted to have an exercise program (for the kids) but didn’t want them to know [they were exercising],” she said. “We like to change it up, don’t want the kids to be bored. The kids really enjoy it and it’s going great.”
The fitness programs are implemented by the family-run Harvard Martial Arts and EW Training, and class cost is incorporated into each child’s tuition.
Different classes, meeting one to four times per week, are available for children ranging in age from 4 to 12. Henson said at the end of the martial arts course, students will give a demonstration to parents, who are happy their children are keeping active during the day.
All interviewed agreed there is a “couch potato” epidemic sweeping the country and believe adults need to not only demonstrate healthy and positive behaviors, but provide a way for children to have fun with getting fit while teaching important values at the same time.
“This program teaches discipline, respect and courtesy,” said martial arts Master Mike Malinowski.
“Most people think martial arts is just punching and kicking, but it has always been about respect and doing good for the community.”
He said his goal is to teach students confidence and to respect others as well as themselves – the students have books of “good deeds” they are encouraged to share.
“Martial arts really helps to improve the [children’s] schoolwork. Over time you see changes in them, how their behavior has changed,” said Malinowski, who noted that students at his main facility are asked to regularly bring in their report cards as testament to these positive growths.
Loretha King has been a teacher at Brown Bear Day Care center for eight years and said she loves the new programs.
“I’ve been in this field for 22 years, and I see the health aspect getting worse. Kids just wanting to play video games and the computer. These activities make exercise fun.
“The children are excelling. And the teachers are out there doing it with them,” she said, laughing.
“EW Training gets them involved with everything from jumping jacks to water play. And the martial arts program, the kids are so into it. They follow directions and focus on doing it …. You can see the leaders emerging,” she said.
King also said being a part of the day care and working with Henson has been wonderful, noting the director is truly concerned about the health of the children and the staff.
“Coming here is a blessing.”
The Taekwondo and fitness programs teach children how to live up to their full potential and strive to make the experience fun and safe. Mike Malinowski and his family run their Harvard Martial Arts school for the love of it, not because they have to do it. His wife, Sheila, believes martial arts is beneficial for everyone, including people who may struggle with physical or mental impediments.
“People can learn to work with adversities, to learn to do anything [they] can set [their] minds to,” she said.
“We try to bring out their strengths,” said Mike, “But we also teach them that sometimes you are going to lose. [And that’s ok].” Henson said she hopes Brown Bear Day Care will continue to run the programs in the future and more children will be included throughout the school year.
To learn more about Brown Bear Day Care, call 815- 943-3499.